One Step at a Time: Navigating Mental Health with UP MHM 2020

October 30, 2020

ARTICLE BY Caitlin Siñel and Juris Nafarrete

ART BY Albert Raqueño

This article is in partnership with the UP Mental Health Month (UP MHM).

With the pandemic in full force, we are all struggling. It is clear that as students, we find it difficult to adjust to our online classes. Coping with the current learning set-up involves factors such as faulty internet connection and problems at home, not to mention daily news fixes on our incompetent government and the worsening number of COVID-19 cases. 

This crisis has put our mental health in jeopardy. Now more than ever, we must look after our emotional well being. However, our current environment does not even provide a safe space for mental health. How then will we be able to take care of ourselves?

Given the present circumstances, UP students need to learn how to prioritize their mental health. This is where the UP Mental Health Month (UP MHM) comes into play. 

UP MHM is a month-long event in October that aims to raise awareness on mental health and break the stigma that comes along with it. This year, UP MHM is anchored on the theme, DAMBAYAN, with the objective of creating a support system for students despite the physical distance brought about by the pandemic. DAMBAYAN is a play of words that stands for Damay, Akbay, and Bayan. This means that the UP community is one with its students in taking concrete action to talk about mental health issues that we experience as an entire nation. 

Because students are not able to physically attend classes, this year’s UP MHM shifted its initiatives online. Leading up to the event, various promotional posts were uploaded on the UP Mental Health Month Facebook page. These posts included the hashtags, #UPMHM2020 and #HelpIsHere. 

UP MHM 2020 officially kicked off during the first week of October, with the publication of its main poster and the explanation of this year’s theme. A series of posts, talks and workshops online were held in the succeeding weeks of the month.

Interested to know what transpired during the entire UP Mental Health Month?  Read on to find out.

Pabs, Chichi, Niko, and Maya. Source: UP Mental Health Month (Facebook)

DAMBAYAN: A Month Long Series of Events 

Last October 2, 10, and 24, through the “Pause & Play Project: Mars, Alam Mo Ba?” initiative, students were able to learn about debunking health myths, taking care of one’s mental health in a remote learning set up, and coping with Zoom Fatigue.

“Mindfulness Workshops:Chillax”, a series of talks held every Monday of October, aimed to provide learning opportunities for mindfulness and stress management techniques which are essential given the amount of workload students currently have to finish online.

“Motivational Posts: Kaya ‘To, Kaya Mo” is an initiative that provides free downloadable wallpapers and interactive facebook posts and instagram stories every Wednesday and Friday.

In addition to the socio-political issues regarding mental health, a discussion about the dangers caused by self-diagnosis plus a psychosocial support talk occurred last October 17 during the “Webinar: Usap Tayo?”.

The purpose of “Psych Services Guide: Bigay-Gabay” last October 18 and 25 was to inform how and where students can seek assistance from mental health professionals, including a list of possible symptoms a student might have.

UP MHM’s main poster. Source: UP Mental Health Month (Facebook)

The month-long event was kickstarted by two prominent mental health advocates, Senator Risa Hontiveros and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Hontiveros is at the forefront of the Mental Health Law as its author and principal sponsor Hontiveros explained how the Mental Health Law should be reimagined because of COVID-19. “The pandemic has revealed how badly we need each other,” she said. 

She also emphasized the importance of reaching out by means of teletherapy, the hotline of the National Center for Mental Health, or simply to one’s friends and family. “I remind you that you, your mental health, it will always matter—you always matter.”

Meanwhile, Robredo shared her concerns about the existing stigma where mental illnesses are associated with weakness or something to be ashamed of. 

“This discourages help-seeking behavior, which then makes data inaccurate and compromises the ability of willing doctors and health professionals who wish to help,” she explained, pointing out that honesty and openness are the first steps to healing. “Hikayatin ang bawat isa na maging mas bukas, magbahagi ng kanilang mga karanasan at pinagdadaanan, at yakapin sila ng buong-buo.” (Encourage each other to be more open, to share their experiences and what they’re going through, and to welcome them with open arms.)

Mental Health: A Month and Beyond 

Undoubtedly, UP MHM has been successful in portraying how crucial it is to look after your physical and mental well-being through their month-long event. They created a diverse range of initiatives, from eye-catching illustrations with motivational messages to engaging events that primarily talked about mental health, without missing even a single day of October. It is also timely that they described remote learning as a factor which can greatly affect one’s mental health, and how they emphasized that no one is alone in this—and that there are others who also go through the same thing as you.

Even after the month is long over, UP MHM’s message will still ring true: There is goodness that exists even during the worst of days. Each and every one of us faces our own predicaments, whether at home, university, workplace, or within ourselves, but it only takes one second to reach out for help. Allow yourself to accept that there is someone out there, who’s willing to listen and understand your story. Always remember, you can do this—one step at a time.

This October 31 (8 PM), UP MHM—in partnership with Branch Out—will be launching “Gig Night: Gig N’ Take”, a benefit gig for children with special needs at The Heart at Play Foundation. There will be performances from local bands and artists, stories about mental health, and how self-empowerment is relevant now more than ever.

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